This article was published on FoodandNutrition.org.
It’s tempting to dismiss the newest diet trend — called “flexible dieting” — as just another fad. But, the thing about flexible dieting is that it’s deliberately “anti-fad,” and, when done right, could help build life-long habits for healthy, balanced eating.
Rather than focusing solely on total calorie intake, flexible dieting takes into account the source of calories by tracking consumed grams of macronutrients — protein, carbohydrate and fat.
The concepts behind flexible dieting are not based on any new philosophy in the nutrition world. At the diet’s core is the idea that you should be able to enjoy any food in moderation — yes, a diet that says you can have an occasional donut or brownie — just as long as you can account for it in your total macronutrient intake for the day. For this reason, the phrase, “If it fits your macros,” has become something of a flexible dieting slogan.
How to Get Started on a Flexible Diet
How can you start flexible dieting? First, determine the total calories you should be consuming in a day, using ChooseMyPlate.gov. Then, calculate how to distribute those daily allotted calories using the USDA’s Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges: 45 to 65 percent from carbohydrates; 10 to 35 percent from protein; and 20 to 35 percent from fat.
Or, even better, consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist to get a truly customized analysis of your macronutrient needs to achieve body composition goals.
After you’ve set your daily macronutrient totals, you track your total grams of protein, carbs and fat consumed from meals and snacks every day. While this can be the most inconvenient part of following the flexible diet, it serves as a strong educational tool. Knowing how many grams of carbohydrate are in a donut or how many grams of protein are in a chicken breast can help people make healthy food choices even when they are no longer tracking every morsel eaten.
Another advantage of following the flexible diet is that all three macronutrients are accounted for in the diet. These all play important roles in health. Many traditional fad diets reduce or eliminate a macronutrient (think low-fat, low-carb, etc.), leaving the dieter feeling deprived and often leading to overindulgence. While these diets may work for the short-term, they are not realistic life-long eating routines.
If you’re interested in integrating the philosophy of flexible dieting, commit to seriously tracking your dietary intake for at least two weeks to gain an understanding of the macronutrient composition of foods you commonly consume. As you become more aware, you will not need to track every meal. While it’s not a point of focus for flexible dieting, it’s also important to take into account micronutrient intake and fiber. After all, you still need to make sound nutrition choices. Otherwise this would just be another fad diet.